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Winter is often overlooked as a good time to observe birds, because in most people’s minds the majority of the birds have flown south to escape the harsh conditions that lay ahead. This notion couldn’t be any further from the truth. Despite the cold, winter can host some extraordinary birds that would not typically be found in the Upper Midwest. Two well known areas in the state for birding are Duluth and the Sax-Zim Bog.
Situated on the shore of Lake Superior, Duluth attracts all types of winter raptors, songbirds and seabirds that are not normally found in the summer months and you don’t have to go far to find them. Canal park is a good starting point to look for wayward gull species and waterfowl. On the lake side of the point out in the open water look for scooters, long tailed ducks, red throated loons and on the harbor side along the shipping docks a snow owl or two may be spotted. If birding in the city doesn’t sound very appealing, a quick trip up Hwy 61 ending in Two Harbors and back could result in a variety of winter songbirds like bohemian waxwings, pine grosbeaks and crossbills. For rare and unusual birds in the area the Minnesota Ornithological Union post rare bird alerts. http://moumn.org/
Farther inland, about 45 minutes Northwest of Duluth near the town of Meadowlands lies the Sax-Zim Bog. It is world renowned as one of the best winter birding destinations in the U.S for owls and boreal bird species. The bog is a great place to look for great gray owls, northern hawk owls and boreal chickadees. Many of the residents welcome birders to their property to view the feeders they have set out and Friends Of The Sax-Zim Bog has opened a visitor center for people to share information and gather at. More information on the bog can be found at: www.saxzim.org
Of course birdwatching can be done in any part of the state, however these are two of the more notable locations that bird watchers “flock” to in hopes of finding something special. There are numerous State Parks, Nature Reserves and Wildlife Management Areas that are also open in the winter for exploration. More info can be found the the MN DNR website at: www.dnr.state.mn.usv